Signal Hill planning staff gathered input from residents on the City’s housing needs during a workshop on Monday, Aug. 19 as part of a process to update the City’s General Plan Housing Element, as required by the State.
The Housing Element is one of seven elements in the City’s General Plan that sets acceptable land uses and guidelines for development, however it’s the only element that requires State approval.
Planning staff said nearly 15 residents attended the workshop at the Signal Hill Community Center in which residents filled out surveys and received an overview on the City’s proposal for meeting State requirements and addressing the City’s housing needs for the next eight years.
The Planning Commission and City Council are required to approve the updated Draft Housing Element plan by Oct. 15, after which it will be sent to the California Department of Housing and Community Development Department for certification.
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which is allocated through the Southern California Association of Governments and determined by the State, requires that the City accommodate its “fair share” of housing for projected regional population growth, according to city planning officials.
Under the current plan, the City is required to accommodate 169 new units in Signal Hill from 2013 to 2021, with at least 22 extremely low-income units, 22 very low-income units, 27 low-income units, 28 moderate-income units and 70 above moderate-income units.
Scott Charney, Signal Hill community development director, said many of the new housing units are already in the process of being developed or are in the planning stages.
To meet RHNA requirements on affordable housing, the City has designated 77 low-income units, with five infill/second units on sites throughout the city and 72 units on a site at 1500 Hill St. and 2170 Gundry Ave., which is already zoned for affordable housing.
For the latter project, the City has already acquired both properties through the former Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency, and the properties have since been transferred over to the Signal Hill Housing Authority.
The project, which would be Signal Hill’s sixth affordable-housing complex, coming after Las Brisas I and II, would involve demolishing existing structures on the site, including an old metal Quonset hut built after World War II and combining the properties into one complex. The City would then issue a request for proposals for an affordable-housing developer to take over the development.
Though the State has taken away $2.6 million in funds that were once set aside for development incentives, Charney noted that having the zoning pre-approved for affordable housing helps move the project along. However, he said the project might take longer because of the loss of redevelopment funds.
“We’re not going to approve a project with just anybody, but the concept of having the zoning pre-approved means any developer who wanted to build at 1500 Hill St. could technically just process the plans,” said Charney, who stressed that previous affordable-housing projects in Signal Hill have been “successful.”
To accommodate for moderate-income housing, the City has designated 35 units. The plan calls for 20 units as part of the Aragon residential development that are currently under construction north of Pacific Coast Highway at Orizaba Avenue (out of the 81 townhome-style units), six units at 32nd Street near Walnut Avenue and nine infill/second units on sites throughout the city.
For above-moderate-income housing, the City plans for 86 units, including 55 units at the Aragon project that have already been developed, 25 single-family homes being proposed as part of the “Crescent Heights” development on property owned by Signal Hill Petroleum at Walnut Avenue and Crescent Heights Street, and six infill/second units on sites throughout the city.
The City’s updated Housing Element plan is also required to meet new state mandates, including providing accommodations for emergency homeless shelters, special housing, transitional housing and supportive housing.
Colleen Doan, Signal Hill associate planner, said state mandates don’t require that the City actually build an emergency homeless shelter, which would provide temporary housing of six months or less, but it does require that the City at least provide zoning accommodations for an applicant to do so.
While some officials have suggested that Signal Hill provide homeless-shelter accommodations for 76 people, Doan said that figure is inaccurate because the city is often counted along with Long Beach.
She said a one-day survey of the homeless population in Signal Hill conducted by the Signal Hill Police Department, city staff and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in January concluded that there were three people deemed to be homeless in the city during that day. Therefore, the City is planning to adopt zoning that would allow for an emergency homeless shelter with up to 16 beds without a conditional-use permit.
Doan said the City is required to select an area in the city, whether industrial, commercial or residential, where the homeless-shelter zone would be best suited. She added that a residential unit with six people or less is currently considered a single-family home.
Carmen Brooks, a 12-year Signal Hill resident and a Signal Hill Parks and Recreation Commissioner who works with the homeless population for the City of Glendale, said she was glad to see a plan in place for affordable housing and the homeless.
“If you look at the median income and the average price of housing, without an intentional plan to bring in affordable housing, it wouldn’t be here,” she said. “So I’m happy about that.”
Louise Cunningham, a 17-year resident and also a Signal Hill Parks and Recreation commissioner who lives on Panorama Drive, said it’s better for residents to understand the kinds of developments the State is mandating before it becomes an issue. “I think the more you can educate people about what’s going on the less problems you have with people getting all irate,” she said.